Hot off the Press

Shear | Katharsis

by Joe Mis
– Senior Columnist —

Shear KatharsisKatharsis is the latest release from Finish sextet Shear. Despite a history reaching back to 2001, Katharsis is only the band’s second full length release. They dropped their debut Breaking The Stillness in 2012, and an EP (In Solitude) in 2009 – and the band’s cohesiveness and unity is obvious despite this being technically a sophomore release.

Shear settled into their current lineup in 2008 with the addition of lead singer Alexa Leroux – a true powerhouse vocalist with a massive range and passionate delivery. She is backed by three founding members – guitarists Mikael Grönroos and Lauri Koskenniemi, and keyboardist Lari Sorvo. Newer band mates Silver Ots (bass) and Juhana Karlsson (drums) provide the backbone. Each member of the band is technically outstanding, and they play together like a veteran act

The symphonic instrumental “Katharsis” opens the album, setting the overall mood while only giving a partial glimpse of Shear’s breadth of styles. After a peaceful opener, “Last Warning” explodes as a full-on power metal track – intense guitars, romping keys, snapping bass, and a gritty vocal performance by Alexa Leroux are the highs. The mood darkens on the Gothic, progressive track “Home” – a very technical track with intricate guitars, complex rhythms and tempos, and layered keys. Every member of the band gets time in the spotlight, and each delivers. “Heaven Into Hell” is much more on the power metal end of the spectrum, featuring a high speed guitar line over slick keys, giving Alexa a chance to push to the top of her range. There are a number of tempo changes on this track as well, and the guitar solos are outstanding.

Driving bass and simple pop inspired vocals (one can easily believe that Alexa is a Katy Perry fan) totally change the mood on the catchy “Hollow, Black & Cold,” but somehow the track is still “heavy” even through the choral vocal closing. “I Care” seems to start like a ballad but then manages to blend some alternative and progressive influences with driving Gothic rhythms, booming drums, and solid keyboard riffs becoming something unique. Brutal, ringing bass and crunchy guitar riffs open “A Hopeless Tragedy”, but the song is quickly taken over by the lead vocal line, one rich in passion, energy and fire. Big guitar hooks, a toe-tap inducing rhythm line and smooth, soaring vocals set the commercial – progressive “Whispers Follow You” apart.

“For The Restless” has captured a bit of Joan Jett and fused it with hints of Vixen, overlaid on smooth keys and an intense guitar / bass / drum line. A bit bluesy, a bit modern, and a bit gritty – this is perhaps the epitome of Shear’s diverse styles all wrapped up in a single track. “Not Myself” stars out like intense prog metal, but quickly becomes a radio friendly melodic rocker that combines a healthy does of hair-metal influences with the modernity of Amaranthe. The band dials it back up to 11 on the thrashy, almost groove metal “Turmoil,” a fitting closer for a strong album.

The mix of the album is very good overall, but there are times where Alexa’s voice seems a bit lost among the intense guitars – just a touch more boost on the vocals would have made a huge difference to the final result. The band writes good songs, obviously influenced by the symphonic metal acts of Scandinavia, but they have been selective in what they borrowed. They’ve kept things accessible by rolling in elements of power metal and commercial rock (particularly the strong backing vocals) while avoiding the pomposity of operatic singing and occasional “over-the-top” symphonic manias.

The mix of styles that Shear delivers on Katharsis simply amazing, as they manage to sound comfortable and at home no matter the tone or tempo. The vast amount of technical musical talent coupled with the amazing voice of Alexa Leroux mark them as a band to watch. Complex and intricate styles performed in a manner that keeps them accessible for all listeners is a difficult feat to master, but Shear pulls it off. Katharsis is highly recommended for fans of female fronted, progressive, Gothic, or power metal – in other words – just about everybody.

Genre: Power, Melodic Metal

Alexa Leroux (vocals)
Mikael Grönroos (guitars)
Lauri Koskenniemi (guitars)
Silver Ots (bass)
Lari Sorvo (keyboards)
Juhana Karlsson (drums)

Track Listing:
1. Katharsis
2. Last Warning
3. Home
4. Heaven Into Hell
5. Hollow, Black & Cold
6. I Care
7. A Hopeless Tragedy
8. Whispers Follow You
9. For The Restless
10. Not Myself
11. Turmoil

Label: Lifeforce Records


Hardrock Haven rating: 9/10